COVID-19 long | Renée Fleming, lyrical healer

(Paris) American star soprano Renée Fleming has been passionate about the therapeutic virtues of music for years. With experience in respiratory rehabilitation with patients suffering from “long COVID-19”, she dreams of seeing the arts become an “integral part” of health systems.

Posted yesterday at 10:19 a.m.

France Media Agency

“We are breathing experts, it is the basis of our profession, just like swimmers or wind instrumentalists,” smiles the soprano during an interview via Zoom with AFP.

The one who is called in America “the diva of the people” is in France for a gala of the Paris Opera on Wednesday at the Palais Garnier, in an unusual format put on by her accomplice, the director Robert Carsen, with Lambert Wilson as narrator , two other singers, Renaud Capuçon on the violin and two dancers from the Ballet de l’Opéra.

In August 2021, she launched with other singers, including Angélique Kidjo and Broadway stars, the Healing Breath initiative “in which we share our favorite breathing exercises […] to allow patients suffering from long-term COVID-19 or anyone with lung problems to develop their breath,” explains the soprano.


In some facilities, such as Houston Methodist Hospital, which has a music therapy program, “therapists are making such progress with patients that the facility wants to bring in more artists, because it really works! “, she continues.

The soprano, who is trying with researchers to extend the project to “measure the health of the lungs”, this is not her first project on the link between arts and health.

In collaboration with the Kennedy Center in New York, of which she is an artistic advisor, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), she has been working since 2017 on Sound Health, an initiative to explore how art therapy can improve health and even have a direct impact on neurological disorders, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

And with the Johns Hopkins American Hospital and other institutions, she has been working since 2019 on NeuroArts Blueprint, a project that goes further by wanting to create a network of researchers and artists to promote the use of the arts to improve health. .

“I hope that NeuroArts can become a field in its own right […]. I would love the idea of ​​the arts being an integral part of our health care system,” argues Renée Fleming. “Humans have known music for at least 55,000 years in view of the discoveries of instruments from that time. It’s in our DNA to respond to music and the arts”.

paralyzing stage fright

Doesn’t she fear resistance from the medical community? “Of course there is resistance”, even if this type of initiative is spreading, especially in the United Kingdom and in certain American states, she notes.

Her passion for the convergence between health and the arts was born from her own body, because despite an exemplary career that brought her to the top of her game, she suffered from horrible stage fright before going on stage.

“Every cell in my body was screaming ‘no, I can’t do this!’ When you get stage fright, you feel like you’re going to die before you go on stage,” she wrote in her autobiography. The inner voice (2004).

In the spring of 2023, the 63-year-old soprano will return to the Paris Opera, where she has not sung in an opera for ten years, to interpret Pat Nixon in Nixon in Chinaseminal opera by John Adams.

And at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, she will create the event by making her highly anticipated return, after five years, at the world premiere of Hours by composer Kevin Puts, an adaptation of the novel by Michael Cunningham which was brought to the screen in 2002 with Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Nicole Kidman.

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